By Megan Mays, Jun 1, 2006
We have only been in Albania for a month, but we have already made our share of bloopers and mistakes.
For example, not long ago, my sister Moriah and I went shopping together. First, we went to a shop to get bread. The owner of the shop came over and asked in Albanian what I wanted. I told him I wanted whole-wheat bread, or brown bread. At least I think that's what I told him. He walked over to the shelf, picked up a package, put it in a bag and handed it to me. Then he took the money from my hand and gave me a coin back for change. I looked over at Moriah and said, "I think I just bought something, but I'm not sure what." After we left the store, I discovered that I had bought something kind of like zwieback. Oh well. It was brown, and it was bread. We'll eat it.
When we got to the stand where I like to buy produce, I went in and asked for a kilo of tomatoes and two cucumbers. The lady began to jabber in Albanian, but I didn't understand a word she said. I told her, "Nuk kuptoj; unë flas vetem pak Shqip," meaning "I don't understand; I only speak a little Albanian." She smiled and said something else I didn't understand. I told her again, "Nuk kuptoj." She said it again, this time v-e-r-y slowly. I still didn't know what she was saying, so I told her again, "Nuk kuptoj." She started laughing and asked if I was an American. I told her, "Po, unë jam Amerikanë,"-"Yes, I am an American." She laughed again and started copying me. "Nuk kuptoj, nuk kuptoj, nuk kuptoj," she said over and over pointing at me and laughing. She was right. That's about the extent of my Albanian. Finally, she told me the price of the produce, and I paid her and left. As I walked away I could still hear her laughing to herself, "Nuk kuptoj, nuk kuptoj, nuk kuptoj." Talk about embarrassing! Well, at least it's a good incentive to learn Albanian quickly. I don't want to go back to that shop again until I can understand what she's saying, but she does have the best produce in town.
Recently, Dad and I went to buy some byrek for our dinner, a kind of pie filled with either spinach or meat. We walked into a shop that had byrek advertised on the window and asked if they had any byrek pa mish-byrek without meat. The man shook his head, so we turned around and started to leave. The man called for us to come back, so we turned around and asked him again if he had byrek pa mish. The man again shook his head, but this time he also said po, meaning yes. That's when we remembered that in Albania shaking your head from side to side means yes, and nodding your head up and down means no. Will we ever learn?
Today, Dad, Moriah, and I went for a walk in the center of town. We stopped at a bookstore to ask if a book we'd ordered had come in yet. The man said no, but it would be here on Tuesday. Dad smiled and said, "Great, I'll be here on Tuesday," and gave the man the thumbs-up sign. After we left the store Moriah and I laughingly reminded Dad that, in Albania, a thumbs-up means, "Off the tip of my thumb," which is similar to a sarcastic, "Yeah, right." We hope the man wasn't insulted too much.
Next, we walked over to the pharmacy to talk to a friendly man who speaks some English. We talked to him for quite a while. After about 30 minutes, Moriah started to get restless and wanted to finish our walk. Dad told the man we had to go because Moriah was getting antsy. The man quickly went over and got some special shampoo and gave it to us for Moriah. Moriah and I thanked the man and said goodbye, and Dad told him "Mirëmenges," and we left. After we got outside the shop, I asked Dad if he knew what Mirëmenges meant. "Good night, right?" he asked.
"No, Dad. It means good morning."
When we got home, we solved the shampoo puzzle. The kind pharmacist had thought Moriah was suffering from a bug problem since she was "antsy," so he gave her a remedy for head lice, a common problem here in Albania. We had quite a laugh over that one!
Last week when we were out walking in the market, Moriah accidentally bumped into someone. Instead of saying, "Me falni,"-I'm sorry," she said, "Mirepafshim," which means goodbye.
Wanting pjeshke (peach) juice, I've accidentally asked for peshk juice, which means fish juice.
We've gotten a few strange looks and a lot of laughs, but that's okay. We're learning, and by God's grace, before long we'll have learned the language and we won't be making any more mistakes. I hope!
Check out Megan and her family's web site.